In the first scene in my recently-released medical memoir, Uncomfortably Numb, I am interviewing Jamie Clark, the music director of the middle school jazz band I’m planning to shadow during the 2012-2013 school year to witness how Clark helps his students through mourning the sudden death of a band member. The year I spend with Clark and his student musicians is the subject of my 2017 book, Mr. Clark’s Big Band: A Year of Laughter, Tears and Jazz in a Middle School Band Room.
As I’m speaking with Clark, I experience what I will later realize is the first symptom of multiple sclerosis. It will take two years before I’m officially diagnosed with the incurable autoimmune disease, and another three to see the band book through to publication.
The time line covered in my 2020 memoir Uncomfortably Numb starts with that August 2012 interview and ends with the launch of Mr. Clark’s Big Band. Pretty meta.
The inextricable link between the two books is detailed in a piece published on the website Women Writers, Women[‘s] Books. The website is also featuring my book this month as a recommended read.
Image credit: Women Writers, Women[‘s] Books.
The Republican — the daily newspaper for which I used to work way back in the day, back when it was called The Union-News –ran a feature story about my medical memoir, Uncomfortably Numb, and my experiences with MS.
Here’s how it begins:
In her new book, “Uncomfortably Numb: A memoir about the life-altering diagnosis of multiple sclerosis,” West Springfield native Meredith O’Brien describes how she went overboard one Christmas season after a semester teaching ended and she proceeded to tackle “a ton of activities, too many, actually.”
Fatigue hit her hard while she was watching her son at a Christmas musical event at the high school in Southborough where she now lives. “Quite quickly, my thinking became foggy and my legs were on the verge of giving out,” O’Brien recalls. “I had to ask my husband to drive me home immediately. I spent the next several days in bed, unable to do what I wanted because my body needed the rest.”
Read the rest of the piece here.
Thank you to editor Cynthia Simison –who was my bureau chief in the Westfield, MA bureau — and to writer Cori Urban for the piece.
The article includes a plug for my June 1, 1-2 p.m. webinar with Bay Path University’s MFA in creative nonfiction to discuss “The Art of the Medical Memoir.” Sign up for the free webinar here.
Image credit: The Republican.
The Southborough Library and Recreation Departments co-hosted a virtual author event via Zoom where I discussed my memoir, Uncomfortably Numb, and fielded questions ranging from inquiries about multiple sclerosis to questions about the writing process.
I read several short excerpts from the memoir, including one about how, in the confusing aftermath of my MS diagnosis, I became obsessed with getting a second dog — a puppy — whom we named Tedy Wilson (after the New England Patriots’ Tedy Bruschi).
Now 5 years old, Tedy made a guest appearance.
Image credits: Ryan Donovan, Southborough Library, via Zoom.
I love to support independent bookstores and make sure to visit one whenever I’m in a new town or city. But … since we’re in a pandemic, I figured I’d give you a couple of options of where you can buy my medical memoir, Uncomfortably Numb. I’ll emphasize the indie bookstores first:
Based in Westborough, MA, this independent store has been the site for book events for all four of my books, including the one and only in-person event to launch my memoir, Uncomfortably Numb, before the Coronavirus shutdowns went into effect.
If you’re looking for signed copies of Uncomfortably Numb, email the bookstore and we’ll send the book on its way. You can also call them: 508.366.4959.
Continue reading “buying copies of ‘uncomfortably numb’ during COVID-19”
Boston Globe writer Kate Tuttle recently interviewed me about how and why I wrote my memoir, Uncomfortably Numb.
The piece, published online and in the print, included this lovely sketch of my author headshot (originally taken by photographer Nancy Gould).
You can read Tuttle’s article here.
Image credit: The Boston Globe.
My book event with the Southborough Library — which was canceled due to the pandemic closures — has been rescheduled and reborn as a virtual book event.
A bonus? It’ll also include a book giveaway.
The Southborough (Mass.) Library, in partnership with the Southborough Recreation Department, will be hosting my book talk on Wednesday, May 20 at 7 p.m. via Zoom.
To register for the free event, contact the Southborough Recreation department here.
The folks at the library will draw a name from those who register and the lucky winner will receive a signed copy of Uncomfortably Numb.
Two seriously enthusiastic shout-outs to Paige McGreevy and Zibby Owens for affording me opportunities to chat with them about my memoir Uncomfortably Numb.
These two women have been incredibly generous in helping writers, whose work is being published during a pandemic, connect with book lovers.
McGreevy, who started the New York City-based Les Bleus Literary Salon, has been hosting writers via Zoom as they read from the new books for an audience of literary enthusiasts. (Several of my fellow authors from Lockdown Literature, pictured on the right, have read from their books in recent weeks, so I was in illustrious company.)
Meanwhile, Owens, a well-respected book podcaster who created Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books, recently spoke with me for her Instagram Live author interview series.
You can watch the interview as it happened below. (Luckily, Tedy, my hyper-yappy dog, did NOT burst through my office door — which never quite clicks closed — and start barking. PLUS my three, college-aged kids — who are all finishing up their spring semesters virtually — did not slow down the internet enough to boot me offline.)
Here’s the link to the video.
Thank you Paige and Zibby! You are truly doing public service, at least to writers and readers!
Uncomfortably Numb received praise from a MultipleSclerosis.net reviewer as “a worthwhile MS memoir.”
Gary Chester — whose wife Cathy Chester, an MS advocate & writer, blurbed my memoir — said the book is not just recommended for MS patients, but also for those who love them:
As a caregiver, I appreciated O’Brien’s role as a tour guide through the labyrinth of a seemingly healthy individual experiencing early symptoms of MS to the ultimate diagnosis and its consequences. The journey is not one of clinical observations that many MS patients and loved ones can check-off as they proceed through the book. It is a personal diary of the frustration, doubts, worries, and grievances of almost any MS patient.
Chester added, “She transports us through the dread in a manner that is thoroughly readable and relatable.”
Read the full review here.
Now, about Lockdown Literature… I’ve joined a group of 80+ authors — convened by author Mary South — whose books have been released in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. To help one another out and help our books find readers, the group now has an Instagram page, Lockdown_literature. I’ve also put together an evolving list of group members’ Twitter handles and we also have a Twitter handle.
In the coming weeks, the group will be doing 10-book giveaways of our work, which ranges from memoirs and other nonfiction, to novels and poetry collections. Stay tuned!
Image credits: MultipleSclerosis.net and Lockdown Literature.
As one of many authors whose latest book was released during a pandemic, I’ve got to say, I’ve been blown away by the ways in which the literary community has rallied to support writers who’ve been affected by the coronavirus closures.
Case-in-point: The literary magazine Entropy‘s Michael J. Seidlinger put together a quarantine reading list of “Books You Shouldn’t Forget to Buy” and was gracious enough to place Uncomfortably Numb on the list.
Thanks to both Michael and Entropy for their good will and generous literary spirits!
Image credits: Entropy magazine.
The Sparkly Life blogger Alyssa Kolsky Hertzig named Uncomfortably Numb one of her top reads for the month of March.
Putting it in her “Liked A Lot” category, Kolsky Hertzig wrote of the memoir:
“It tells the story of the author’s life being rocked when she is diagnosed with a chronic disease (after being told by doctors that it was anxiety/all in her head). I thought it was really interesting to learn about how her illness has affected every aspect of her life, and I also thought it was a good commentary on how women’s concerns still often aren’t taken seriously by the medical community. It’s a quick read and a I love a good memoir.”
Image credit: The Sparkly Life.